Grand Boulevard Commercial Kitchen Will Create New Culinary Opportunities, Expand 51st Street Food Corridor
Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Alderwoman Pat Dowell (3rd) today announced a former Streets and Sanitation facility in Grand Boulevard will be transformed into a hub for food entrepreneurs, creating new commercial food prep opportunities for South Side culinary professionals.
"Chicago remains a global leader in the food innovation space thanks to the talented entrepreneurs who call our city home," Mayor Lightfoot said. "This new hub will allow us to deepen this reputation while giving food entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds an incredible opportunity to grow their businesses right in their own neighborhood. I am excited to see this project come to life and support residents as they chase after their career goals."
The 8,000-square-foot Soul City Kitchens project will revitalize and expand the one-story building at 5021 S. Wabash Avenue with shared commercial cooking facilities, test kitchen space, individual kitchen cubes, freezers, coolers, and storage spaces that will be rented on an as-needed basis to food entrepreneurs. A private dining room and community space will also be available for rent.
To be developed by Urban Equities, the project is moving forward as the $4.6 million winning response to a March 2021 Department of Planning and Development (DPD) Request for Proposals (RFP) to revitalize the building.
“Soul City Kitchens will offer affordable and equitable solutions to chefs of all kinds by minimizing barriers to entry, helping them to focus on their food creations, and enabling them to continuously recalibrate in our so-called ‘new’ normal,” Urban Equities CEO Lennox Jackson said. “As an incubation hub, we envision new jobs being created and chefs strengthening their ability to build wealth.”
City support is expected to include the sale of the building, constructed in the 1910s and valued at $90,000, for $1.
“This project is going to be a great transformation of surplus City property and an exciting business concept for the corridor,” Alderwoman Dowell (3rd) said. “The community is eager to see it completed.”
Additional project details will be made available through a formal review and approval process that will include the Chicago City Council.
Soul City Kitchens will join more than a dozen established or planned food-related businesses along 51st Street that are contributing to a vibrant dining, retail and cultural environment between State Street and King Drive. Other existing food-oriented destinations include pop-up food purveyors at the Boxville seasonal marketplace, the Bronzeville Cookin’ dining hall, multiple ethnic restaurants, as well as several cafes and casual dining locations.